Posture and Balance
by Kaye West
You have an instrument that you use in
round dancing -- that instrument is your body. You "play"
it by moving it to the rhythm and beat of the music. To look good on
the dance floor -- and to feel good while dancing -- you need to
master appropriate body posture and balance. When you accomplish it,
you'll enjoy your dancing even more than ever and you will feel less
Good body posture has an overall
appearance of being "ready for action." That is
accomplished by maintaining some firmness in your body (not too much)
and yet remaining poised, responsive, and fluid. You should not be so
tense that your movements are forced, angular, or mechanical; you
shouldn't look like you're hanging on for dear life. On the other
hand, you should not be too limp or draggy, as if you had either
insufficient energy or desire to be there. You should be like a good
angelfood cake -- not stale so it's rigid; not improperly done so
it's flat in appearance; but light, springy, and fresh -- definitely
Here are some suggestions to acquire
and maintain a comfortable, relaxed, and graceful posture:
Stand tall with stomach and
buttocks held in and chin up (yet not way up) so your head is
at that perfect balance point where it feels weightless. Breathe
deeply and imagine that your center of gravity is between your waist
and shoulders -- at your diaphragm area -- instead of below your
waist. This will make your carriage actually "feel" light.
Once in this position, relax your shoulders so they are in a
position similar to that when carrying two suitcases.
Unless the figure demands
otherwise (such as in the Latin rhythms), in normal walking steps
your toes should point straight ahead each time you step
forward, rather than pointing in (i.e., pigeon-toed) or pointing out
Pick your feet off the floor
with every step instead of shuffling them along the floor as is
common in square dancing. Step lightly, whether the figure requires
you to step with the heel first (as in regular walking) when you do
"walking" steps, or with the toe first (as in regular
running) when you do "running" steps or when you walk
The size of your stride will vary
somewhat with the rhythm of the music. You have time for slightly
longer steps with slower music; quicker tempos demand shorter steps.
Your normal stride also varies with your
size! But, watch out! You and your partner are a team and you
should look like it. Consequently, partners should strive to have
matching strides. Generally it is easier in beginning round
dancing to match a shorter stride than a longer one, but with
experience you will probably lengthen your stride. Also, since the
circle that the man makes is normally inside the circle the lady
makes around the floor, his circle is also smaller. Therefore, the
couple must adjust for that difference as well -- especially on a
Slightly bend or "flex"
your knees in the two-step and smooth dance rhythms so that they
are constantly ready for action. They should not be stiff and rigid;
neither should they be overly bent. In some of the Latin rhythms,
such as the rumba, the legs are kept straight a good deal of the
When in a dance position where you
have contact with your partner (that is most of the time), assume
the full weight of your OWN arms.
There is nothing so disconcerting as having to hold up
someone else's arms! It strains the arms as well as the back! When
you hold up your own arms, it is possible to maintain dance position
for a much longer period of time than when one partner (typically
the man) holds up his partner's arms. However, do feel free
to press against your partner for balance at points of contact,
especially in learning a new figure. As your dancing progresses,
strive to maintain your own balance throughout the figure. A mark of
an accomplished dancer is that there is a feeling of dancing with
someone who is "light as a feather." That is certainly a
desirable attribute to strive toward.
When your arms are free, that
is when they have no contact with your partner, they should be
poised in a relaxed manner out and away from the body with the
elbows slightly bent. The image is that you are ready to resume
Closed Position at any moment. The hands, therefore, should be
nearly shoulder high and poised; the arms should not hang loose and
lifeless at your side. Different individuals will find styling that
suits them personally. To determine a satisfactory position for you,
check the mirror to help decide what looks pleasing and feels good.
When dancing, it is critical that both
dancers individually maintain their own balance. The notion of
balance guides where feet are placed in many figures because balance
is maintained when the majority of the weight of the body is directly
over the foot that bears the weight of the body. Since the head is
the heaviest part of the body, a guideline to follow to be in balance
is that your earlobe should be directly over the ankle bone of the
foot that is assuming the weight of the body. If you outstep or
understep this point, you will likely be off balance.
Even in advanced figures such as the
Contra Check, Hinge, and Develope, both partners should be able to do
their part independently without excessive leaning on the partner.
When a dancer feels a great deal of pressure from the partner, very
likely the foot placement or body alignment of one or both is off
slightly, making the person(s) unable to maintain balance properly.
Fancy Footwork, The Art of Round Dancing
by Kaye West (formerly Kaye Anderson), Ph.D., Dance Action, PO Box
7162, Mesa, Arizona, second edition, © 1992. Kaye is associate
professor emeritus from the Department of Teacher Education,
California State University, Long Beach. Reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council
(DRDC) Newsletter, October 2011.